SATRA's chief executive is heading up a new group - charged with spending £525,000 of Government cash on schemes to help the East Midlands' clothing, textiles and footwear industries. 

Dr Ron Whittaker has been appointed chairman of the Clothing and Textiles Industry Pathfinder Group, a sub-committee of the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA), which was granted the money in the wake of the Coats Viyella factory closures across the region. 

Dr Whittaker said: "This money is going to be used to identify and develop those parts of the textile industry with the potential for growth in the coming years. Our aim is for a textiles, clothing and footwear industry that produces wealth and jobs and contributes to the East Midlands becoming one of the most prosperous regions in Europe." 

Several projects will get under way in the New Year:

  • Smaller textiles firms will be invited to apply for money for business development activity, including training, sales, and marketing initiatives;
  • A series of practical workshops involving industry experts will be organised, offering companies specialist advice on issues important to their long-term success (including e-commerce);
  • Expansion of the 'designer forum' resource centre in Nottingham, to make the service available to businesses from all parts of the East Midlands;
  • An ambitious research project will help pinpoint strengths and opportunities in the textiles sector and also aim to benchmark the region against the rest of the world. 

According to Dr Whittaker, one of the important growth areas for the textiles industry is technical textiles such as those used in protective clothing, medical applications, and automotive construction. He added: "We are also seeing growth in the niche markets - particularly for high quality, branded and specialist clothing." 

SATRA is a not-for-profit research and technology centre, the largest of its kind in the world. It serves a range of consumer product industries including: footwear, clothing, furniture and leather goods. It employs more than 180 scientists, technologists and support staff and has more than 1,200 member companies in almost 70 countries. Its services include product evaluation, technical and management consulting, computer systems and information, together with sales of test equipment. For more information, visit SATRA's website at 

Dr Whittaker has served on the EMDA board for a year and has been involved in many aspects of industrial development in the East Midlands. He also serves on the board of the newly-founded American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA).